Copyright Policy for Course Reserves

Preston Library maintains a course reserves collection made up of materials chosen by faculty to support the instructional requirements of specific courses. Course reserves materials may be in traditional formats such as print or video or in electronic formats available online through the library’s E-Reserves service.

Preston Library’s policy for providing access to copyright-protected materials through course reserves is based on the fair use provisions of United States Copyright Act of 1976 (Title 17 of the United States Code). Section 107 of the Copyright Act expressly permits the fair use of copyrighted materials for teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, and research. This educational copying does not require the payment of a royalty or the permission of the copyright owners, provided that the circumstances of the use are fair use as determined by a consideration of four factors specified in section 107.  A helpful tool to determine copyright is available here.

The text of section 107 is as follows:

107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 [Exclusive rights in copyrighted works] and 106A [Rights of certain authors to attribution and integrity], the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified in that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Fair Use Evaluator provides a way to understand and evaluate whether a use is fair under U. S. law. 

In this policy, Preston Library seeks to exercise in a meaningful way the fair use rights provided by the Constitution, as part of the balance between the rights of copyright owners and societal and educational interests in the dissemination of information.

The following provisions apply to materials that are available on course reserves, including those that are scanned or downloaded to the library’s E-Reserves system. They do not apply to materials that are openly posted on the World Wide Web for which direct links are included in the E-Reserves system or to links to electronic resources licensed to Preston Library, since their use is governed by licenses.  The provisions below also do not apply to materials for which no copyright protection is claimed or to copyrighted materials that have passed into the public domain. For assistance in determining the copyright status of materials, see the Public Domain Slider.  

  • The library will weigh the four fair use factors in determining whether the inclusion of the material in the course reserves collection is a fair use. If the use is determined not to be fair, the material will not be accepted, unless the faculty member obtains the copyright holder’s permission.
  • Material is included in the course reserves collection at the request of faculty for non-commercial, educational use by students. There is no charge for access to course reserves materials.
  • Material is included in the course reserves collection only if the library, the instructor, or another unit of the Institute possesses a lawfully obtained copy of the work.
  • The course reserves introductory screen will include a notice consistent with that described in Section 108(f)(1) of the Copyright Act, including additional language cautioning against further electronic distribution of digital works.
  • Material included in the course reserves collection will include an appropriate citation or attribution to its source.
  • The required copyright notice will appear on all material included in the course reserves collection. This includes the formal copyright notice found in the original, along with the name of the copyright holder and the date. The notice indicates that copying or distributing protected materials may be infringements, but that making one copy for personal study, scholarship, or research is permitted.
  • Access to materials on the library’s E-Reserves system will be password-protected and limited to enrolled students, faculty, and staff of VMI.
  • Materials in the course reserves collection will be available only for the time period specified by the instructor in the reserve request. Materials will be cleared from the shelves and from online access at the end of each semester.

Copying and scanning of copyright-protected materials made available through course reserves services is an unsettled area of the law, which has not yet been addressed by the courts. Preston Library will continually monitor legal developments which may affect the fair use analysis of course reserves services to ensure its policies are in compliance with the letter and spirit of the United States copyright law.

More Information about Copyright and Fair Use

This policy is based in part on the American Library Association’s statement entitled "Fair Use and Electronic Reserves" by Georgia Harper, Manager of the Intellectual Property Section of the University of Texas System Office of General Counsel; Peggy Hoon, Scholarly Communications Librarian at North Carolina State University; and Carrie Russell, Copyright Specialist at the Office for Information Technology Policy, American Library Association.

Revised August 9, 2011